NBA NEWS

Leonard out for Game 2; Popovich irate at Pachulia

Sports Xchange

May 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm.

May 14, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after an injury during the third quarter in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 113-111. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

May 14, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after an injury during the third quarter in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 113-111. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Popovich lashed out at Warriors center Zaza Pachulia for his defense on Leonard, telling reporters Monday that the play was “dangerous” and “unsportsmanlike” and citing a past pattern of such play by Pachulia.

Leonard aggravated his left ankle injury on Sunday in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series when he landed on Pachulia’s foot after taking a jump shot early in the third quarter.

San Antonio held a 23-point lead at the time of the injury but couldn’t hold of a furious comeback without its best player and dropped a 113-111 decision.

“Lead with your foot close-out is not appropriate. It’s dangerous, it’s unsportsmanlike, it’s just not what anybody does to anybody else,” Popovich fumed. “And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action. … A totally unnatural close-out that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it.

“We’ve had a pretty damn good season. We’ve played fairly well in the playoffs … and we’re up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State, and Kawhi goes down like that. And you want to know if our chances are less? And you want to know how we feel? That’s how we feel.”

Leonard injured the same ankle in Game 5 of the Western semifinals on Tuesday and sat out Game 6 against the Houston Rockets on Thursday. He had 26 points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes of action.

The All-Star small forward scored a game-high 18 points in the first half as the Spurs stunned the top-seeded Warriors with a 62-42 start.

But Leonard tweaked the ankle when he stepped back into the Spurs’ bench while attempting a 3-pointer early in the third period. Then after a brief stint on the bench, he returned and landed on Pachulia’s foot on a jumper, which sent Leonard limping to the bench for good.

The Spurs were leading 78-55 when Leonard left the game with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter. Golden State immediately responded with an 18-0 run to get back into the game.

Popovich said if Leonard remained in the game and San Antonio lost, he would go to practice the next day and “move on. But this is crap.

“And because he’s has got this history, it can’t be, ‘Oh this was inadvertent, he didn’t have intent,’ ” Popovich said of Pachulia. “Who gives a damn what his intent was? Have you ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail I think when you’re texting and you end up killing somebody but may have not intended to do that. All I care is what I saw, all I care about is what happened. And the history there exasperates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry.”